Despite being a David Fincher-directed serial killer thriller, the often subtle and procedural-driven “Zodiac” bears little resemblance to the helmer’s 1995 gore and tension fueled “Se7en”.
At nearly three hours long and armed with a very relaxed sense of pacing, many of those hoping for another “Fight Club” will be sadly disappointed by Fincher’s insistence on meticulously recreating one man’s decades-long investigation, and offering us a conclusion that’s both too open and paradoxically too tidy.
Instead, “Zodiac” is something less visceral but far smarter, a more mature piece of work that starts out looking like a standard ‘chase the murderer’ style affair, but morphs into something quite different – namely exploring the emotional and psychological toll that comes from the obsession over the case, and its impact on both the police and reporters involved.
Style wise Fincher delivers some far more subtle tricks of the trade then we’re used to, focusing more on recreating the time period in exhaustive detail than showing off the visual flourishes and attention grabbing camera work that he’s most famous for.
The actors all deliver solid if predictable work, and their various stock mannerisms – from Gyllenhaal’s quiet mumbling to Downey’s flamboyance – actually suit their characters perfectly. The killings are all done and out of the way by the end of the first act, and unfortunately it robs the film of the more conventional fear and tension that it had so effectively built up.
Whilst moments of suspense do creep their way back in, that sudden change of pacing will upset some who’ll become quickly bored with the last two acts. Those who can handle the quick tonal change, and the admittedly fragmented last half hour, will find rewards on each subsequent viewing. There’s a lot here but, like the investigations it chronicles, it takes a lot of patience and effort to reap the many small rewards from between the lines where they reside.